[PHOTO: Michael Reaves]

In some ways, Xander Schauffele is golf’s man of mystery. Though we’ve become accustomed to him contending on the PGA Tour, he isn’t big on social media and hasn’t had his story shared as often as golf’s other elite stars. That will likely change after the 30-year-old’s career-defining victory, fending off Bryson DeChambeau to win the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla.

We often hear snippets about Schauffele – like Jordan Spieth calling him the funniest player in the Ryder Cup locker room – but it’s likely fans don’t know the full backstory on one of golf’s biggest stars. Here are 15 of the most important things to know about the 2024 PGA champion.

Photo: Andrew Redington

1. Xander’s father, Stefan, grew up in Germany, and was an aspiring Olympian – but his dreams were cut short after a serious car crash when he was 20.

A decathlete on the German national team, Stefan was on the way to Olympic training when his car was struck by a drunk driver, causing a number of injuries that included the loss of sight in his left eye when his windshield shattered.

He spent two years in and out of hospitals but the sight in his eye never returned.

“It was a rough time,” Stefan told our Tod Leonard in 2019. “There was some depression and alcoholism. That’s what led me to moving to America.”

2. Xander’s parents, Stefan and Ping-Yi, met at San Diego’s Alliant International University.

Ping-Yi was born in Taiwan but raised in Japan and met Stefan, who moved to San Diego from Germany. Even though Ping-Yi didn’t speak English, the two hit it off. They got married three months after meeting.

PGA Championship 2024: On an island thousands of kilometres away, Stefan Schauffele bawled after his son’s breakthrough win

3. Xander played a number of sports growing up, but he was best at soccer.

By 6 years of age, the San Diego resident could volley a soccer ball with both feet. He was a defensive sweeper on his club team but always wanted to play forward. “The takeaway from soccer is that I hated losing,” Xander says. “The team aspect was fun, hanging out with other kids, but we’d lose and it would just piss me off more than I thought it would.”

When a 12-year-old Xander was fed up about not getting enough attacking opportunities on his soccer team, he had a fight with his coach and quit.

That’s all Stefan needed to turn Xander’s attention to golf: “I’m not kidding you,” Stefan said in 2019, “the next day, this is exactly what I said: ‘Let’s get you on the PGA Tour. Let’s go.'”

4. His father introduced him to golf at age 9.

No longer able to play soccer, squash, ski or continue his track-and-field career, Stefan took up golf in San Diego – and became so proficient that he was an assistant pro in Kauai, Hawaii, where he and Ping-Yi lived before Xander was born.

Stefan joined Bernardo Heights Country Club so he could play with his sons, Xander and Nico. To help him develop power, Stefan gave Xander an unusual drill as a kid.

As he told our Ron Kaspriske in 2018:

“When I was a kid, my dad would give me a hammer and tell me to drive a nail into a wooden block with a single strike. To do that, I had to swing the hammer fast but also deliver that power into the back of the nail at just the right moment, or I’d do some damage – to my hand or the block. I learned to hold back the speed until the last moment. Think about doing the same when you swing your driver into the ball.”

5. Schauffele spent one year at Long Beach State Univeresity before transferring to San Diego State, where he’d complete his collegiate career.

Schauffele’s remarkable consistency was on display in college: in three years at San Diego State, he recorded 22 top-10 finishes and earned two wins. And in his freshman year at LBSU, he had five top-10s in 11 starts.

PGATour.com’s Sean Martin shared the below story about Xander’s coach at LBSU, Ryan Ressa, pairing Xander against his future good mate and world No. 1-ranked amateur Patrick Cantlay.

Photo: Michael Reaves

6. Schauffele’s caddie, Austin Kaiser, was a college teammate of his at San Diego State.

Kaiser and Schauffele have been together since the PGA champion’s rookie year in 2017. Kaiser told a story on Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz’s podcast about how he got really drunk after Schauffele missed the cut at the 2016 AT&T Byron Nelson – and Schauffele came and picked Kaiser up after he was doing snow angels in the mud in a cemetery at 2:30am.

“Xander wanted to wake up and practice at 7am… I’m literally hugging a tree blacked out, and then Xander, being the good friend that he is, says ‘OK, I’ll find him, send me the screenshot of where he’s at,’” Kaiser told the Subpar podcast, recalling a conversation between Schauffele and Kaiser’s wife.

“That was probably the time I thought I was going to get fired.”

Fast forward eight years later, and the duo have teamed up for eight PGA Tour victories.

Xander on Zen

7. Despite his accomplished amateur career, it’s been a while since Schauffele played blade irons.

Schauffele uses Callaway Apex TCB irons, which have a classic look, but feature tungsten weighting for adding forgiveness.

“When I was 13 to 15 years old, I played blades and I quickly learned they were not good for me,” Schauffele told Golf Digest when he first put the irons in play. “No reason to make the game harder.”

8. Schauffele met his wife, Maya Lowe, during college.

Maya attended the UC-San Diego, studying public health. The two met while both attending college in San Diego. They got married in Las Vegas in 2021. They have two bulldogs, Chewie and Momo.

“I love French and English bulldogs. I think they are hilarious and adorable,” Xander told Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson.

9. In his first season on the Korn Ferry Tour (then the Web.com Tour), Schauffele missed out on a PGA Tour card by less than $US1,000.

After his collegiate season, Schauffele earned his Web.com Tour card through qualifying school – finishing second in first stage and first in second stage. But in his first season (2016), he finished 26th on the moneylist, but he played his way to a PGA Tour card through the Web.com Playoffs.

10. Schauffele had quite the first season on the PGA Tour.

The San Diegan was an obvious choice for 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after winning the Greenbrier Classic, finishing fifth at the US Open at Erin Hills and becoming the first rookie to win the Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup era.

11. Known for his close calls, Schauffele has been a prolific top finisher.

After his PGA Championship victory, Schauffele’s career earnings rose to just shy of $US50 million with an amazing 59 top-10 finishes and 14 runner-ups in only 175 PGA Tour events.

12. An Olympic gold medal was extra special for Schauffele.

Considering his father’s dreams of competing in the Olympics, and the 2020 Summer Olympics taking place in his mother’s native Japan, winning at Kasumigaseki Country Club was extra special.

“To have my dad here as well is really special,” Schauffele said. “I gave him a hug off the back of the green there. I know this means a lot to him, so I’m just happy to sort of deliver this.”

13. Yes, Schauffele–Cantlay have become best friends in addition to being a formidable duo at Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups.

The California kids and their wives holiday together and, on the course, they are lethal. They’ve become a prolific team in the past four US Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and they also won the 2022 Zurich Classic. Of course, they were known as two of the best players in the world without a major until Schauffele’s PGA victory.

Photo: Chris Graythen

14. Working with Chris Como has helped Schauffele pick up considerable distance.

Schauffele ranks seventh on tour this season in Strokes Gained/Off The Tee (gaining 0.796 strokes per round), compared to last season when he ranked 43rd. He has also picked up three miles per hour of clubhead speed since last year.

Despite his father being his only real swing coach previously, Schauffele has seen immediate dividends from working with Como.

“This is probably the most comfortable I’ve felt with some of the changes that Chris was able to implement,” Schauffele said at Valhalla. “They weren’t big changes, just getting the club a little bit more on plane up top was key. Shoulders maybe a little bit steeper. I tend to go a little bit flat and a little laid off.”

Photo: Darren Carroll/PGA of America

15. Schauffele cemented himself in the history books with his win at Valhalla.

Not only did Schauffele record the lowest winning score for a major champion with his 21-under total at the 2024 PGA Championship, but Schauffele became the first player in history to shoot two rounds of 62 in majors after an opening-round nine-under, matching his 62 at the 2023 US Open at Los Angeles Country Club.